Investigative Journalism and the Ray Rice Story

For the past several days we have been bombarded with news and outrage over the Ray Rice video, which TMZ decided to release in its entirety just hours before the kickoff of Monday Night Football.  Coincidence?  I think not but that’s another story altogether.

Every news show has gone to great lengths to criticize any and everybody for their so-called role in the Ray Rice incident.  First we have Ray himself who immediately became the the poster boy for what a domestic violence abuser looks and behaves like.  Then we have Janay Palmer Rice, the poster girl for what a domestic violence victim supposedly looks like. She has been chastised for standing by her man, whom she turned around and married a month after the incident.  She’s also been labeled a gold-digger at the same time.   Oh and let’s not forget Ray’s mother, who has had the finger pointed at her for not teaching her son better moral values.

Then we have the NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, and the Baltimore Ravens organization, who have been severely criticized over their handling of the incident.  Although Rice allegedly told Goodell he punched his fiancee, the media has jumped all over the NFL Commissioner saying he should have seen the video and how dare he not see the video and now that the video has been released, heads need to roll.

As a veteran journalist, I am starting to see something more often than not when it comes to my colleagues.  Some of them have become more REACTIONARY instead of doing the jobs they are paid to do—and that it to “investigate” and “dig” for the hard cold facts instead of waiting for someone else to do their jobs for them and then try to take the lead.

Instead, the media has allowed TMZ, a program that describes itself as gossip and entertainment news, covering celebrity news and Hollywood rumors to dictate the lead on this story.

The media has come down hard on Goodell and the Ravens for either not seeing the video or seeing it and lying about it.  Journalists everywhere are pointing the fingers at everyone but themselves.  What has happened to the Bob Woodwards’ and Carl Bernsteins’ of the world?  For those of you who may not know or may have forgotten, Woodward and Bernstein were reporters for The Washington Post in 1972, when they used their investigative skills to uncover the Watergate scandal.  This scandal led to numerous government investigations and the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.  They didn’t wait for the story to be handed to them.  They went out and dug it up. They didn’t point fingers AFTER the fact.

Should this video have come to light?  Absolutely!  But the media has a responsibility to its viewers dig beyond the surface and uncover the “news” accurately and fairly.  Going into attack mode like a pit bull serves no purpose, other than ratings.

It would appear that true investigative journalism has become a thing of the past.  As long as a journalist looks like eye candy to the viewer, they don’t really have to work hard in their craft.  After all, the average viewer doesn’t really care about how the story is generated or if the facts have been verified.  Just look at Fox News.


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Five Things You Should Not Do During a Media Interview

A media interview in any type of media platform is an awesome opportunity to boost your visibility and credibility.  It can immediately boost your sales and open up the doors for other interviews on a larger stage.  A good interviewee learns how to be well prepared while also being able to communicate extemporaneously but they also know not to charter off into deep waters and fall into the trap of the things you shouldn’t do during a media interview.

1)  Don’t lie, guess or speculate:  Mark Twain once said, “If you tell the truth you won’t have to remember anything.”  Don’t try to impress a reporter or audience during the media interview by making yourself look better than you are.  That kind of behavior can come back to bite you.  Also, if you don’t know the answer to a question, just admit you don’t know. It’s better not to know than to think you know and be wrong.

2)  Don’t get upset or angry:  As a veteran journalist, I can tell you that some media folks know how to get on your last nerve and bring out the worst in a person during an interview.  Sometimes they will play devil’s advocate just to see how you react.  Don’t take the bait.  That is when you need to be the most calm, cool, collected and professional.

3)  Don’t talk about information outside of your area of expertise:  If you are a writer of romance novels, you are not qualified to discuss the works of a science fiction author.  If you’re a magazine article writer you can’t  talk about publishing a book. You might be an excellent branding strategist but you have no business critiquing the work of a Health Fitness coach.  You could be good cook in the kitchen but you aren’t qualified to critique what Rachel Ray does.  Stay in your lane and impress with your own, unique expertise during the media interview.

4)  Don’t bad mouth others:  If you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything at all.  We’ve all heard that saying before, right?  No one likes to have less than kind things said about them. If you say something that could be viewed as mean-spirited about someone (especially a competitor in your field) during your interview, you may end up doing more harm to your own reputation in the long run.  The reporter may ask you how you feel about another person or may try to compare you to your competition who is doing better than you.  If you react and it’s recorded, you can’t take it back.  And that will be the clip that gets played over and over and over again.

5)  Don’t act like you’re all that:  Never act like it’s a privilege for the host to have YOU on their show.  It’s an honor to be invited as a guest so act that way.  A condescending tone will come across on the airwaves.  Be humble and thankful that someone wants to share your story with their audience.  Remember, it’s THEIR show.

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How to Conduct a Good Telephone Media Interview

One of the best ways to self promote yourself or your small business or product is If through media interviews.  Although getting on one of the major radio or television talk shows may be a tough challenge, internet radio has opened the doors to many opportunities. With internet radio as part of your marketing plan, you can reach hundreds or thousands of people at little or no cost.

Here are some tips to make your telephone media interview effective:

1)  If you’re calling in be sure to get the correct time/date and the time zone.  If you agree to 5pm PST and you live on the East Coast, that means you’re supposed to call in at 8pm.

2)  Prepare a list of questions to provide to the host/producer.  If you’ve written a book, send them a copy.

3)  Try not to use a cell phone and do not ask the host or producer to call you on a line with call waiting.

4)  Have a specific area set aside for your telephone interview so there won’t be any noise distractions.

5)  Be sure to keep some water nearby in case your throat gets dry.

6)  If you are portraying yourself as an EXPERT on a particular subject never say “I don’t know.”  Even if you don’t know the answer, cover by saying something like “that’s a really good question and offer your take on the question.  (That’s why giving a list of questions to the host/producer is a good idea so you can have some sense of control over the interview).

7)  If callers are a part of the interview be sure to address everyone by their first name and thank them for calling in.  They didn’t have to you know.

8)  Relax, be conversational and let your personality shine!

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More Press Release Mistakes to Avoid

A large number of press releases that are circulated miss the mark because they fail to grab the right kind of attention in an effective manner.

Here are five press release mistakes to avoid:

1)   You are NOT the center of attention:  Your press release should be written for your audience.  You may have written an awesome book but what value does your work offer to the readers?  A potential book buyer or customer will more likely be sold on the value of product or service rather than on YOU—especially if you’re not a “recognizable” name.

2)  Don’t ADVERTISE.  Press releases are meant to inform, not sell a product or service. It should offer valuable information, education or entertainment.

3)  Poor Contact Information:  Make sure you identify the best single point of contact and a correct phone number so interested media can reach you and get the best possible attention and response from you to meet their needs.  There should be ONE key contact person, ONE contact phone number, ONE email address, and ONE url.

4)  You didn’t include the 5 W’s:  The Who, What, Where, When and Why of a press release is extremely important.

5)   No call to action:  You must tell the media what you want them to do with your press release.  You need to tell them what you are asking for or suggesting they do after reading it.  Then you might want to offer some incentives like free review copies of your book if you’re an author.

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How to Maximize Your Press Release Exposure

When you send out a press release you are literally competing with thousands of others who are also seeking some type of media attention.  The problem with many publicity seekers is they have no real clue on how to target the right market so they end up doing what I call a “spray and pray.”  They put out the release and hope the right eyes will see it and respond.

First and foremost, be clear on who you are targeting with your release.  Yes, you are hoping a media outlet (or two) will pick it up but think about who else can benefit from your information.  You can maximize your press release exposure by identifying the groups(s) who would be interested in what you’re offering and then targeting them directly.

How do you do that?

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google Plus….need I say more.  These social media sites give you an opportunity to build relationships with people you don’t even know.  That, in turn, opens up a new audience of potential buyers and/or customers.

So before you send out that next press release, go to your favorite social media sites, find those groups you feel closely aligned with and start making connections.  It can also maximize your press release exposure because if you’ve built a good relationship with others, you may find your press release “tweeting” around the world.



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